Monday, February 6, 2017
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. Start rehearsal on time every day. Be ready to give the downbeat right when class begins. Insist that everyone is ready to play at that time. Starting rehearsal with announcements, etc. just takes longer for the students to get "dialed in" and the last minute arrivals use that time to put their instrument together instead of listening. In addition, it shows the other students that being on time and ready is optional.
2. While playing the warm-up scale (or whatever you use), take the opportunity to make eye contact with every student in the band. It's a good first step to communication, and it lets them know that you're expecting an "interactive" teaching experience.
3. When you're talking to the group, insist on eye-contact from everyone. If they are messing with their music or instrument, they're not hearing you. If what you're saying is not important enough for their attention, why bother saying it? Also, be brief. Don't use 100 words to say something that only needs 10.
4. Students asking a director "Are we playing today?" is like asking the cafeteria workers "Are we eating today?". Taking a day off from playing should not be considered a reward.
5. The more time you spend on fundamentals, the faster they'll learn the concert music. Having a skill set that can be applied is much more effective than learning each skill as it occurs in music (and those 'spot skills' are unlikely to carry over to the next occurrence.)
6. If you want students to watch you while playing, you have to insist on it and train them to make it a habit. Don't expect them to look at you if all they see is the top of your head.
7. Teach students to be musicians who can make independent musical decisions. You can't possibly correct every pitch, rhythm, style, and tuning issue. The more they learn to do themselves, the more effective the process.
8. Students should only make markings on the music that give more information than what is already provided. If they miss the key, writing in a reminder accidental is more effective than just circling the note. Just circling means that they have to mentally process the meaning of the marking before applying it. In addition, students should be in a habit of making correct notations (accidentals before notes, not after or above.)
9. Students should learn to be comfortable playing by themselves. It will not be a traumatic event if it's a regular expectation.
10. Get off the podium. Move around the room. It will provide a great opportunity to correct posture, etc. In addition, kids are more likely to stay focused on task when you might be looking over their shoulder at any moment.
No, this isn't a lecture encouraging you to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. Instead, I'm going to encourage you to be selfish in your next rehearsal and governed by your own needs and development instead of the musical needs of your students. Sound interesting?
The best education in music, for me personally, was a two-week intersession course, Advanced Rehearsal Techniques Through Video Microrehearsal, presented by Dr. Stephen Paul and Dr. William Wakefield. The course presented a number of different rehearsal techniques and allowed the participants to apply them in a 12-15 minute videotaped rehearsal each day. The objective was to focus on ourselves as teachers, not the final musical product. Videotaping the rehearsals was a critical course component, providing the opportunity to reflect and analyze our teaching. Below are some of the rehearsal skills we addressed in the course.
Many of us videotape our rehearsals, but usually to analyze our conducting. Instead of always watching yourself conducting music, occasionally take the opportunity to evaluate yourself teaching music. Videotape a rehearsal and focus on some of these rehearsal skills:
Set / Follow-through / Response
It sounds strange to put the spotlight on ourselves as we prepare our ensembles for upcoming contests and festivals. So much of what we do is focused on our students and ultimately, the performance. Experiment with being selfish every now and then by videotaping yourself. You will have to believe that by taking care of yourself, in the long run, your ensemble will be better served.
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